Last week I was part of a business roundtable for Congressman Kevin Cramer. There were several topics discussed but I presented some information about the labor force in the North Dakota metropolitan and micropolitan areas. I calculated three-year and one year monthly growth rates and then projected out the labor force based on those rates. This is an inherently linear projection method which is less than desirable but the inherent nonlinearities in the ND data are somewhat difficult to identify.
I thought I would switch focus a little bit on the housing issue. The discussion largely is a matter of price and availability. As I mentioned before, we really do not have a large number of sales that give us the ability to suggest markets are working well at any given time in most housing markets. That does not mean we automatically assume a market failure though.
A proper investigation of issues in housing requires a look beyond the price. As I mentioned, price can be indicative of an issue, but is not the source or cause of the issue. In the same way your sore throat may be caused by a sinus infection, if you fail to look for the root cause you may treat the condition inappropriately.
The recent GF Herald article about housing prices brings to the forefront an issue with housing price calculations. The Herald used index numbers based on sales, which is problematic. What was the composition of sales in a given month? If there were only high value homes there could be sample issues. Also, when you attempt to make a comparison between two areas you have a double issue with the inconsistency of samples.
As a topic, the economics of housing in North Dakota creates a significant amount of debate. This debate lacks consistency, ground rules, and facts. Most of the discussion takes place under the umbrella term of “affordable housing.” On numerous occasions I indicated the inadequacy of this term. The first problem is that it seems assumed the mere assertion of an “affordable housing” problem is adequate substitute for actual evidence of a problem. The second is a failure to recognize the differing nature of a potential problem when we are talking about a retired couple, a newly married young couple, or a family of five. An “affordable housing” problem for each of these three groups could look significantly different and require drastically different solutions. How much of a solution do we want? There are times it seems people want a 100% solution, by which I mean everyone that wants a house should have one in their price range. It is not that kind of world! Let’s make sure it is on the block they want too.